All In The Family: Modified Brethren Mightily Cheer On Rival Ryan Preece Saturday

Woody Pitkat (right) and Dan Anderson (left) from Hoosier Tire East watch Saturday’s Xfinity Series race inside the the Waddell Communications trailer at Star Speedway in Epping, N.H.

EPPING, N.H. – Late in the afternoon Saturday at Star Speedway in Epping, N.H., the inside of the small Waddell Communications trailer, parked in the pits for the Northeast Race Cars & Parts Tri-Track Open Modified Racing Series event, became the most popular place to be at the track.

As the NASCAR Xfinity Series race came to a conclusion Saturday afternoon at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Ia., more than a dozen people were crammed into the 14-foot by 8-foot trailer trying to get a glimpse of the 40-inch television broadcasting the event.

Squeezed among the group were longtime Modified veterans Woody Pitkat and Rowan Pennink.

Around the landscape of Modified racing, from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, to weekly SK Modified divisions to events like Saturday at Star Speedway, the 38-year old Pitkat and the 31-year old Pennink have long locked horns at times with 26-year old Ryan Preece. For a decade they’ve been competitors in Modifieds.

And there have been times when Pitkat didn’t want to look at Preece because of incidents they had on the track. The same goes for Pennink with Preece.

But on Saturday, in the cramped quarters of that trailer, Pitkat and Pennink were just racing fans cheering on Preece as he held off Kyle Benjamin over the final two laps at Iowa Speedway to win his first career Xfinity Series race.

“It was a great feeling just knowing that you’ve grown up racing with that guy,” Pitkat said. “There’s weeks you’re going to hate the guy, the other weeks you’re going to be friends with him and it’s because of the fact that sometimes you’re racing in three and four different divisions against them in a weekend and something is bound to happen.”

“You want to see somebody move up to the next level no matter who it is. Anybody that you race with, anyone in your division, you feel good about that. It definitely feels better when he’s saying it’s for all the Modifed guys. I have huge respect for him, I always have.”

Said Pennink: “We battle hard on the race track. Some weeks we hate each other. But at the end of the day the kid has got a shot to show what us Modified guys are all about in one of the national series’. I think not only myself, but everyone in the Modified community wants to see him succeed and maybe make it in that division. I don’t think it’s in the cards for me, but it would definitely be cool for Ryan to make it.”

Pitkat he made sure to set his DVR before leaving for Star Speedway Saturday and he kept up on everything going on Iowa during the event while preparing with his team to run the event at Star.

“Everybody in New England has got his back and we hope something can come out of it,” Pitkat said. “It’s a money driven sport unfortunately, but he’s trying. He’s trying to do what he loves doing and make a living of it. I wish him nothing but the best and hopefully he can get something out of it.”

The 34-year old Matt Hirschman won the event SBM 125 Saturday at Star, but said he knew if Preece was not racing in Iowa he figures he would have likely been racing him for victory in Epping.

Hirschman had a developmental contract with the then top level Gillette-Evernham Motorsports team in 2008, but the opportunity only materialized into two K&N Pro Series East starts

“It really proves that the guys that I would say are the best in [Modifieds] can win at that level and even at the next level,” Hirschman said. “I feel with the right opportunity, had things worked out for me, I think I could have done the same. That’s not taking anything away from him because I think he’s one of the best in [Modifieds] and I think there’s a few of us that given the right opportunity we could win at the highest level. But it’s all about the timing of opportunity and age and things like that.

“If Ryan Preece stays in a Modified he’s going to be a rival of mine for years to come, but if he can take it further I’ll be rooting for him. I hope he can get all the way. It would be nice because guys haven’t been getting the opportunities.”

On the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour the Doug Coby and Ryan Preece show in the standings has been a perennial storyline. Coby won his first Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2012, with Preece finishing second in the standings that year. In 2013 Coby finished second to Preece in the series standings. And in 2014 and 2015 it was Preece finishing runner-up to Coby in the standings both years. Preece ran a partial scheduled with the Whelen Modified Tour last year while he ran full-time on the Xfinity Series with Johnny Davis Motorsports. Coby drove to his third consecutive title on the Modified Tour in 2016.

After Saturday’s event Coby posted on Facebook: “Got chills watching Ryan Preece grab the Xfinity [Series] by the horns over the last few weeks and remind everyone that desire and talent are what propels this sport. Couldn’t be prouder of one of my biggest rivals making the most of an incredible opportunity.”


  1. It is nice to see how professional the drivers interviewed were when speaking about a rival. Great roll models and good for the sport.

  2. Coby, always a class act!

  3. Good stuff man.

  4. Coby said it best, these guys beat each others nerf bars off everywhere they go but when one of them has a shot they all support and root for him. Great job Ryan and I hope something comes of it!

  5. Ryan could open the door for even more young modified talent who want to reach the next level…….

  6. Geese Louise a little perspective. According to Fox Sports Ryan Preece started 33 races in the Xfinity Series coming in 17th in points. He had 1 top 10 finish, 13 top twenty finishes and led a total of 3 laps. At the tender age of 26 this is not his first rodeo and he is not some naive, wet behind the ears kid with stars in his eyes. He said it best and to paraphrase he told his wife he didn’t know if anything would come of it but when he had the opportunity he felt he made the absolute most of it and he did. If something comes of it I know I’ll miss him for sure. But the competition is fierce and NASCAR is experiencing a bit of a decline. If nothing comes of it, it’s still an amazing accomplishment to do what he did coming in cold with a team he had not had any experience working with. Truly amazing.

  7. darealgoodfella says

    Nobody was this excited about a northeast mod driver when Lia had a ride in trucks.

    Doug, Preece spent last season in equipment that was 15-20th place equipment, if that. If you watched any of the races last season, when the JD cars were running, they were pretty much within a few places of each other. The JD cars were not high potential. No amount of driving can overcome equipment deficiencies. But he stuck it out.

  8. Nobody got excited because most fans realize Lia is a terrible driver, so they dont care. He lucked into 1 career win, but disappeared faster than he arrived.

  9. I really wish you would ignore me Dareal cause I try to ignore you. But if you have to mention what I have said make sure I said it. In this case you’re trying to counter a point I never made. I simply mentioned Preece’s experience in Xfinity that clearly was with inferior equipment and tried to make the point that what he did by itself is a major accomplishment regardless of what or what doesn’t come next.

  10. I think your perspective was dareals point doug. Had he run all year in gibbs equipment perhaps the numbers would be extremely better to outstanding. . He did the best he could in the crap jd motorsports gave him to drive. Like winning in a rent a racer car. Aint happening unless the rest of the field crashes out.

    Congrats ryan.

  11. Doug,
    In this case I don’t think you should be mad at Dareal. The way your post was worded, I thought that you were telling everyone to calm down by using the words a little perspective and Geese Louise. Usually someone uses Geese Louise when they are frustrated with someone else. Then you went on to give his record in the series. I took your post as downplaying Preece’s win, not pointing out the fact that he was in inferior equipment. All previous posts had great things to say about the win. Your post appeared opposite to me.

  12. Fair enough.
    I tried to make a bigger point. 1) Preece had the full range of experience in the Xfinity Series and not much success. I didn’t think I had to say it was second tier equipment. My mistake. 2) Preece put the two runs in PERSPECTIVE by saying he didn’t know what would come of it but was happy he did the best he could and made the most of his opportunity. 3) I didn’t think people were grasping the enormity of his accomplishment on it’s own merits and were blowing past it looking for a next step.

    “If nothing comes of it, it’s still an amazing accomplishment to do what he did coming in cold with a team he had not had any experience working with. Truly amazing.”
    Fred, how that sentence adds up to ” I took your post as downplaying Preece’s win” escapes me. Did you even read my entire post or just see red as soon as you read my review of his run last year.

    Clearly I didn’t get my bigger point across Many are looking at the two finishes. . I’m looking at the finishes, his prior mediocre season and his observation on the entire experience. And what I’m seeing is a young but seasoned veteran, talented, knowledgeable and quite admirable as an entire person with PERSPECTIVE. Not just a local guy that did good in two races.

  13. Edit note:
    Apologies to Fred for attributing a quote to him when is was clearly Ed J.

  14. If nothing comes of it this will be the steady decline of NASCAR. Sorry, Kaz Grala is a local kid who hasnt really raced locally and as a fan does nothing for me. These are the only 2 Xfinity races I watched all year, and will be the only 2 unless I have a reason to follow. I honestly think this is becoming a big issue that NASCAR is realizing that the 18 year old bringing the sponsors is doing nothing for their bottom line. Who dictated that you had to be 17-25 to be considered prime for the sport????

  15. I was glued to the TV and that’s saying a lot for an Xfinity race for me. Kid was smooth and looked like he’d been driving in the series much longer than 2 races. I hope Gibbs will be able to give him a few more opportunities. I am hoping that with Kenseth retiring if he was slated to run any more Xfinity races for the rest of the year maybe they can put Preece in instead. I don’t recall anyone in my memory finishing 2nd and 1st n their first 2 Xfinity races. Maybe with Preece and Byron running against each other in Xfinity the races might actually be watchable . Now put Preece in a car running with Kyle Busch in Xfinity and that cfould really be a show. No one has been this impressive coming from the Northeast since Ron Bouchard and Geoff Bodine headed south. I wish him all the best and will be cheering him on.

  16. There are 13 races left on the Xfinity schedule. Tifft is in the 19 for the whole season.
    Cup drivers are prohibited from racing the final 8 races of the Xfinity season (7 playoff and “regular season” finale).
    Kyle Busch can only run three of the next six Xfinity races (10 race limit for experienced Cup drivers).
    Bell has been announced for 5 races. Benjamin announced for 1.
    That leaves a total of 18 open seats in Gibbs equipment for the remainder of the year.
    I wonder if JGR would be willing to put a driver whose average finish is 1.5 in two starts, in some of those entries, regardless of funding level.
    Seems to me like it would make sense to take that chance.

  17. Ed P….What about Steve Park? Yes from Long Island but he raced locally at Thompson weekly

  18. Steve Park, good call. And an interesting factoid about Steve Park is he was in the last coup that appeared at Stafford when he was in a wreck that made it no longer serviceable.

  19. Ed P…
    i am very excited about Ryan’s opportunities too, but you have overlooked several CT/New England/Northeast drivers that have had success in National NASCAR series. Rob Moroso was the 1990 Cup Rookie of the Year. not to mention others like Ricky Craven, Jimmy Spencer, Mike McLaughlin, Steve Park.
    all that said, im with you! lets go Ryan, kick some ass!! someone give this kid a ride already!

  20. LM – thanks for calling Steve Park out . I guess I’m giving away my age remembering Bodine and Bouchard. I remember seeing Park in the #8 at Thompson. Won an Ice Breaker the day I was there. Maybe ’96? Too bad his career was cut short by injuries, and who can forget when he won Rockingham in Earnhardt’s car the week after Daytona in 2001? We also had the other Bodine brothers, Kenny Bouchard, Mike McLaughlin , Greg Sacks, Jimmy Spencer, Randy and now Corey Lajoie and Jerry Nadeau. They were all great . But maybe Park is the only one of all of them who had the level of talent comparable to Bodine and Bouchard in my humble opinion. And that’s a pretty short list considering all the great drivers in the modifieds up here in the Northeast over the years. I think Preece is right up there with the best of them and I would not rule out the Dowling kid at Stafford going a long way either.

  21. darealgoodfella says

    Ed P., Dowling is a high potential. I enjoy watching that kid. I also like Zachem and Swanson. Those three are the future of Modifieds. This Bock kid is also interesting. He’s on the radar.

    But I think an overlooked talent is Rowan Pennink. He spent years with crew chiefs that didn’t give him what he needed. Pennink’s talent as a driver far exceeded what his crew chiefs gave him for a car. The Pennink owned operation had all the best parts, but never ran with all the other cars with the same parts. I remember watching the 93 running like it was on four flat tires at BRISTOL!!!!! The 93 ran well for some short runs, but couldn’t run for an entire race. Very sad. He wasted years of development and talent with bad crew chiefs. It’s great to see him running well, in other teams’ cars with other crew chiefs.

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